First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

HOLY HOMEWORK
Will Pokémon GO Replace the Fire Plug?
By FATHER BOB PAGLIARI, C.SS.R., Ph.D.

The latest electronic frenzy appears to be Pokémon GO, an interactive game that people can play on their Apple and Android devices. Approximately six weeks ago, Niantic Inc. launched this mobile entertainment in select countries around the world. However, its roots can be traced back to the 2014 diversion called Ingress, which was designed to get addicted players off of their couches and out into the real world. The idea seems to be working since more than 130 million people have downloaded this latest app already.

Will Pokémon GO or Will Pokémon Stay?

It's a bit premature to say if Pokémon GO will become a new way for humans to connect with one another or a source of separation instead. The game seems to have the potential for both. On the plus side it has drawn upwards of 9,000 people to a single location. Granted these numbers don't come close to the hundreds of thousands who assembled one year ago in Philadelphia to hear Pope Francis speak at the eighth World Meeting of Families nor the millions of teens who have gathered at the 12 Papal Youth Day rallies in the past.

Nevertheless Pokémon crawlers do seem to amass a certain collective effervescence when they meet and that certainly leans more toward inclusion rather than isolation. On the minus side, naysayers complain that its novelty won't last because the game has many glitches, can get boring and will not be conducive to walking outside in the winter weather. Also, it is important to remember that although the concept of requiring people to move around in the real world is certainly a healthier alternative to sitting indoors for hours, Pokémon GO is not one of the social media like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook. Its primary purpose is to capture creatures, points and bragging rights, not foster relationships.

Pooling Resources Builds Community

In New York City, the fire hydrants do double duty. They are a year-round insurance against apartment and commercial building fires plus a sprinkler playground in the summer. Where there are no community pools for a refreshing dip, the fireplugs serve as a neighborhood oasis for kids to chill. Upon request, the FDNY is only too happy to attach a water-conserving spray cap to the local spigot and turn a city street nozzle into a refreshing curtain of cool rain against the scorching concrete jungle.

The source of this free refreshment and necessary nutrient is a watershed located more than 100 miles to the north. Rather miraculously, there are no pumps needed to assist the law of gravity which moves 1.1 billion gallons of water every day from the network of 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes through 6,200 miles of water pipes, tunnels and aqueducts to more than 8 million people who need hygiene, hydration and a splash of happiness. The end result is an engineering marvel to say the least.

More to the point is that this city sprinkling system builds community within our neighborhoods. Watchful parents get to know one another and kids must learn to take turns. So barring some catastrophic water restriction down the road, it seems our summer relief and neighborhood-enriching assembly around the local fire plug is in no danger of evaporating in the foreseeable future. In this respect, our 151-year old FDNY is doing a much better job than smart phones and apps at helping to socialize humanity.

For Holy Homework: Let's print out a picture of a fireplug and post it in plain sight for a month. Then, each time we see it we will be reminded to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the firefighters who keep us safe and cool, and for the Catholic events like World Family Meetings, Youth Days and Holy Mass which bring us all closer together in a true community of fellowship and for a much higher purpose than collecting points in a game.

Comments can be sent to: FatherBobPagliari@Yahoo.com

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